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Salon owners concerned about new regulations ahead of reopening

The cost of COVID-19 tests are a concern for salon owners and employees.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — 2 On Your Side Facetimed with Jennifer Sullivan, the owner of Color Karma in Lancaster, on Wednesday. Sullivan is able to reopen her salon as part of Phase 2 with limited services.

While it's something she's been waiting to do for 10 weeks, she was also waiting to find out what the regulations would be.

Sullivan spent 10 weeks looking at how other states were reopening and coming up with her own safety protocols because New York State didn't release new regulations until late last week.

That was four days before Phase 2 started in the Western New York region. One new requirement jumped out to Sullivan right away.

"I got really upset Friday when I found out that we were mandated to be tested for COVID every 14 days, and there are lots of different, other careers that don't require any type of testing at all," said Sullivan.

2 On Your Side took Sullivan’s question to the Governor's office to find out why many other employers don't have to test their employees for COVID-19. We have not gotten a response yet.

Sullivan is worried about how much it will cost.

"Have you found a place that does it for free? Or, what's your insurance situation even?" asked 2 On Your Side’s Kelly Dudzik.

"That's funny because I had no insurance up until yesterday, so I don't know. I need to do even more research to find out who will test, and when, and how. I've got over two-hundred appointments to reschedule, so I'm going to be living here at work for the next couple weeks. And, it's going to be very, very difficult because there are certain places that do the mandated testing, and they have a lab right there. So, it's easy for them, or easier for them, to get tested because have people come right there. I need to do more research, and I need to find out where I need to go, and who is going to pay for this," says Sullivan.

Erie County has an interactive map online that shows you where you can get tested. And, the state has required private health insurers to make COVID-19 testing free for patients by waiving any out-of-pocket costs.

As far as the required PPE, stylists and barbers in Erie and Chautauqua Counties can get free face shields. Sullivan already bought some anticipating they'd be required.

As salon owners waited for the state to release regulations so they could reopen, they looked to other states for help. Every state has its own regulations, and as Sullivan waited for Phase 2 to start, she was proactive.

"We've been making little changes little by little. What we thought was acceptable," says Sullivan.

As Sullivan and her employees follow the new regulations, she says they can't see as many clients.

"Just myself, I schedule about 30 people. And with these new rules and regulations, I'm cutting that in half to about 15," says Sullivan.

In Pennsylvania, salons are in the Green Phase. They can open at 50-percent occupancy and by appointment only in the Green Phase, and all businesses must follow CDC and DOH guidance for social distancing and cleaning.

Salons and barbershops reopened in Florida on May 11. You had to make appointments, and employees had to leave 15 minutes in between appointments to disinfect their workspace and equipment. And, all employees had to wear masks.

And, as salons reopen in Phase 2, many employees are still waiting for some or all of their unemployment benefits. Out of the hundreds of people 2 On Your Side has heard from who are having issues with unemployment benefits, most filed in March or early April and are independent contractors. A lot of people who work at salons still haven't gotten paid.

Jennifer Guizzotti is a master stylist at Salon 716 NY in Kenmore. She filed for unemployment in March. BUFFALO, N.Y. - The latest unemployment numbers released by the state Thursday show more than 11,700 people filed new unemployment claims in Western New York for the week ending May 23.

Sullivan has a small team of employees, and everyone filed for unemployment when the state closed businesses because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sullivan’s salon was closed for ten weeks, and on week ten, she got her first unemployment check. She only got paid for four of the ten weeks she's owed. She is still waiting on back pay along with many of her employees who are relying on that money because they say they can't see as many clients now with the new safety regulations in place.

Sullivan has this advice for anyone still waiting on their benefits.

"Reach out to anybody in power. Assemblymen. Councilmen. I've heard message them on Twitter. It seems like every time some type of message or phone call gets made to somebody in power, a payment is in, which it shouldn't be, but that's what it's like," she says.

The New York State Department of Labor has not said how long it will take everyone to get their back pay.

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